One feature of having a real block is that all sorts of things you should have done get skipped. I’ve got my work cut out now to put that right, but that’s my own fault. The beginning of November saw the 3rd Carlisle photo festival (which I’ll write up elsewhere), but one of the exhibits which really grabbed me – and has grown on me ever since was Possessed by Sarah Faraday and Yujiang Wang.
The Possessed project – which can be found at www.possessed.org.uk – “operates by participants giving up objects of personal importance…” In return the artists take two photos – one for the exhibition and one for the participating donor. According to their statement the process of documenting the objects serves a dual purpose – it is part of the act of letting go and it serves as a reflection on the role of the image as an archival document.
On the face of it I think it also asks questions about how we see photos of objects - do we see them as photos or do we see them as the objects themselves? I seem to recall Barthes (or was it Sontag?) expounding on something similar with pictures of deceased relatives standing in for the person themselves in family conversations. Few of the participants feelings on this issue are actually recorded – Leila’s jeans is an exception, where it is clear that the image hovers on the boundary of actually replacing the jeans in terms of the emotional attachment felt. Travel memories falls into a similar category.
A more tricky question – asked by the artists – is “Can the camera capture anything of the emotion invested in an object?” On the face of these images I feel the answer is probably not. This is not a failing of the artist – simply a reflection that deadpan photography is not ideally suited to this task. yes – we can wonder what caused all the dents and dings in the spanner, why and how a pair of climbing shoes got so battered, and we can surmise some things about the owners life on the basis – but I think it’s stretching it to say that they can illustrate the emotional links in isolation without some supporting contextual material – as in this example where there is a hint of something more personal. Berger makes much the same point in “Another way of telling”.
Sarah Faraday’s website: http://www.sarahfaraday.co.uk/
Yujiang Wang’s website:http://www.xaphire.de/